Cyberalarmism's Threat to Privacy

This piece originally ran on Al Jazeera America.

When members of Congress talk cybersecurity, it doesn’t take long for the discussion to turn apocalyptic. The Feb. 27 meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee was no different when Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Gen. Keith Alexander, retiring director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and commander of United States Cyber Command, to describe in 30 seconds what a major cyberattack could do to the United States.

“I think they could shut down the power in the Northeast,” Gen. Alexander responded. “Shut down the New York stock exchange … shut down some of our government networks …  impact our transportation areas … water supplies, they could do damage to that.” If something like this occurred, according to Alexander, the wreckage could include thousands of dead Americans and trillions of dollars in damage. 

“On the cyber front, you’ve described a Pearl Harbor on steroids,” Graham replied. Alexander did not disagree.

While there are legitimate cyberthreats in the world, these melodramatic hypotheticals don’t help real cyberdefense and deterrence. Instead they serve only to create a sense of urgency around passing rash and overreaching laws that undermine Americans’ privacy even more — a tall task after whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s revelations. (Full disclosure: The American Civil Liberties Union, for which I work, represents Snowden.)

Should you panic or lose sleep over the prospects of a cyber–World War III? No. Don’t unplug and move to a cabin in the woods just yet.

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Anonymous

That's because everyone absolutely inSISTS on being ungodly exTREMIST about every gd thing in the world.
You can't even say you think someone's obsessed with Edward Snowden without ANOTHER person going all the way to extremes and accusing you of "wanting a police state."
Just b/c you disagree with how much press this thing is getting and that you believe it's gone from healthy concern of privacy to raging obSESSION with it?
Why the hell is there no middle ground for ANYone ANYwhere anymore.
I believe in moderation on BOTH sides. I'm sick of watching people on the right blow up buildings (like abortion clinics) and I'm sick of witnessing people on the left blowing up buildings or calling Vietnam Veterans BABY KILLERS all these fuckin' years LATER. When they don't even KNOW the veteran in question but accuse every last ONE of them of being "baby killers" who "deserved no welcome back home."
Talk about premeditated obsession. Still doing it 40 to 50 years later, and they think THAT'S normal?
It's rude as hell if you ask me and an obvious, outrageous lie to say that every last one of them did what happened with one platoon in the village of Mylai.
A platoon probably has less than 20 people in it. Over 50,000 people died in Vietnam and way more that number were sent there. It's not possible that every single person who went there killed children.

If everybody stopped being in constant extremist mode, maybe we could get something done. But after hearing that vile hater call an old family friend of ours a baby killer, I'm not going to expect ANYthing better to come from them. They obviously don't even WANT to be better people.

Anonymous

Perhaps more people have become obsessed with these issues. However, to insinuate that "everybody" has fallen to extreme beliefs is not only a generalisation towards the general public, but it is a statement that is inclusive of yourself. There will always be extreme people in this world, but luckily there are also those who do attempt to achieve a middle ground. Sometimes these extremes are necessary to achieve a sense of balance and equilibrium, or what some may say as "middle ground", though not always necessary.

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